Focus on ForeignDesk: Q and A with Dierk Seeburg of Choice Hotels International Translators and computers translation jobs
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Focus on ForeignDesk: Q and A with Dierk Seeburg of Choice Hotels International

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Corinne McKayDierk Seeburg is Web Content Administrator with Choice Hotels International in Phoenix, Arizona. Choice Hotels is the world's second largest hotel franchiser with over 5000 hotels in over 40 countries. His responsibilities at Choice include analysis and scoping of mono- and multilingual internal and external web content, process and standards oversight, and translation and quality assurance of English and German web content. He is a professional editor, translator, and interpreter of English and German. Prior to joining Choice he obtained a Master's degree in biology and served as adjunct faculty teaching undergraduate students. He has been a freelance translator and interpreter for 15 years. Open Source Update recently interviewed Dierk about multilingual web content management and in particular, Choice's use of the open source CAT tool ForeignDesk.

Open Source Update: How did Choice Hotels International decide to use ForeignDesk? Did you use another translation tool before this?
Dierk Seeburg: Choice Hotels has a web content department which includes translation teams that handle all web-related translation needs for each of our supported languages for our web sites. We had completed a major push to move forward with our effort to internationalize both our intranet and extranet sites as well as our Internet site. At the time, we were not using any CAT tool or any other internationalization or globalization tool. The volume of incoming translations kept increasing to the point where we realized that we needed a tool to aid us in our translation efforts. We researched the available major commercial tools and the two major freeware tools using criteria customized to our file type and workflow requirements. ForeignDesk is free and open source, does not depend on any proprietary editor or interface which might lock us in, has sentence and not paragraph segmentation, and happens to be very customizable for XML files through configurable filters. Since our external websites are XML-based, XML-customizability was a deciding factor and we decided on ForeignDesk.

OSU: What are some of ForeignDesk's features as compared with other CAT tools? Are there features that are unique to ForeignDesk that you make use of?
DS: Two features that come to mind right away are the customizability for XML files as already mentioned above, as well as its instant and always-on configurable fuzzy matching. Customizability for XML files allowed us to create custom filters for our XML-based files for the Choice Hotels Hot Deals (you can change the language in the drop down menu) as well as our XML-based files for Choice Hotels e-Brochures (you can change the language by editing the locale in the above URL from en-US to something like de-DE). The other feature we appreciate in ForeignDesk is its transparent fuzzy matching and the ability to instantly see the best fuzzy match for the given sentence you're working on. Whenever you work on a particular translation segment the best fuzzy match is displayed in the fuzzy match window, and you can browse through the list of fuzzy matches with lower matching percentages very easily.

OSU: What are your multilingual content needs? For example, how many languages do you deal with on your website? How often is the content updated? Do you have dynamic content in non-English languages?
DS: We started supporting our fourth non-English language, Japanese, on in October of 2003, and we've been supporting it in-house since Sept 2004. Four years ago we had started out with three non-English languages, French, German, and Spanish. We are always evaluating our customers' needs, which may lead to adding more languages over time. We update our content anywhere from as soon as we get it for customer inquiries by e-mail to every few months for major website updates or intranet web application updates. The majority of our updates, however, is in the range of one to two weeks for the Choice Hot Deals or e-Brochures and for medium-size intranet/extranet and Internet website updates as part of our mini-releases. Besides static content wrapped into a dynamic XML wrapper for the Choice Hotels e-Brochures some of our translated intranet/extranet web applications are completely dynamic which is one of the leading edge features for any of the major hotel chains in the business.

OSU: What members of your IT staff use ForeignDesk directly?
DS: All members of our translation teams use ForeignDesk directly, i.e., three members each per language team. We have four language teams altogether, five counting the team processing English web content: English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese.

OSU: Are ForeignDesk TMs exchangeable with TMs from other CAT tools?
DS: We have not had to import TMs from other CAT tools or export TMs to other CAT tools, but ForeignDesk is TMX-compliant, so it should be possible to import and export as long as the other CAT tool is TMX-compliant, as well. ForeignDesk also uses an internal TM-format which we have made use of when merging translation memories from different translation projects.

OSU: Do you or your developers contribute to ForeignDesk development, or just use the releases that come out?
DS: So far, we have not allocated in-house developer resources to contribute to ForeignDesk development and just used the releases that came out. Unfortunately, external development seems to have ground to a halt - I have not seen any new files announced in quite a while. This has prompted us to start looking for options and other tools which include technical support. We may change our strategy in the future, if we see that ForeignDesk could remain our CAT tool platform in the medium- to long-term future.

OSU: Can you describe a typical translation/localization project workflow using ForeignDesk?
DS: A lot of our work revolves around translating and updating the Choice Hotels e-brochures. We receive notification of updates made by the Choice Hotels Destination Content team from the prior business day through an automated process. After individual translators synchronize their local file repository they add the updated files to the ForeignDesk project containing the previous e-brochure files of the region in question. Upon opening the project in ForeignDesk and opening the files requiring updates ForeignDesk fills in all sentences previously translated, i.e., those with a 100% match, automatically and suggests fuzzy matches for the sentences where no 100% match was found. Translators complete the remaining translations and 'build' the updated ForeignDesk project. Lastly, translators check the updated files back into the repository from where they are uploaded into production through an automated process every night.

OSU: What do you see as the advantages of an open source CAT tool?
DS: Well, let's start with the definition of it: open source means that the source code is both freely available for anyone to study and open to be modified. The upshot of that is its usually superior reliability as a result of being a community project of some sort with lots of community members contributing a little bit of their time to help in bug hunting or troubleshooting. Due to its transparency, it's also less vulnerable to viruses since possible points of attack have been eliminated at some point during the community quality assurance process.

A convenient side effect of freely available source code is that there are no license costs associated with the software. Costs are, of course, a big factor when it comes to commercially available CAT tools which can run into the thousands of dollars for some of the networkable editions sporting database backends which are often part of the tool suite of the major CAT tool competitors. Taking into account upgrade costs that become necessary due to lock-in, in the case of a commercial tool, the total cost of ownership is often cited as significantly lower than for commercial tools even taking into account time spent on user forums to solve technical problems with an open source tool.

OSU: Do you see yourselves continuing to use ForeignDesk in the future?
DS: Although ForeignDesk has been a very useful tool to date, we are always evaluating other tools which may improve our efficiencies including better handling of the networking aspect of our project management, supporting other file types like Java properties files natively, and providing a web application interface for translations.

OSU: What resources does a for-profit business need in order to make the best use of an open source CAT tool?
DS: In the case of ForeignDesk, we felt very fortunate that we did not require any developer resources to customize our installation of ForeignDesk - it just worked right out of the box. Thanks to the ample documentation stemming from the days before ForeignDesk was open sourced by Lionbridge, our team has been able to train new employees rather quickly, with training coming from the two-person team originally tasked with researching free CAT tool solutions and therefore most familiar with ForeignDesk.

OSU: Dierk, thanks a lot for your time.
DS: My pleasure, thanks for your work on Open Source Update.

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